“There Has Never Been An Energy Transition”

Guest laugh by David Middleton

If this wasn’t funny enough…

Primary Energy

This is too fracking funny.!

Richard Newell, Daniel Raimi

Aug 17


Despite renewables growth, there has never been an energy transition

Since 2010, the costs of producing electricity from solar photovoltaic systems have decreased by more than 80%. Wind and solar now vie with natural gas to provide new electricity generating capacity. To some, these trends signal the world’s latest energy transition: away from fossil fuels and toward a renewable future.

The big picture: These historical changes in the energy system, however, have been a matter of addition, not transition. Although the percentage shares of biomass, coal and oil in our energy supply have fallen with the rise of alternatives, their total use continues to grow. The world has never experienced an energy transition, but the challenge of climate change means that, for the first time, one will need to begin.


The bottom line: To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, renewables and new technologies will need to do more than build atop CO2–intensive fossil fuels — they will need to push out incumbents while at the same time expanding global energy access and reducing the system’s environmental footprint.

Richard Newell is president and CEO of Resources for the Future. Daniel Raimi is a senior research associate in RFF’s Energy and Climate Program.


“Expert Voices” wake up and smell the fossil fuel-fired toast!

One of my favorite sayings is, “We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones.”  Technically we never left the Stone Age because we use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.

And we never left the “Wood Age.”  There was no energy transition from biomass (wood) to fossil fuels. Coal piled on top of biomass, oil piled on top of coal and natural gas piled on top of oil…


It’s a fossil fueled world.


If wishes were unicorns, we’d all have a merry energy transition.


To the extent that “renewables” are replacing anything, it’s mostly been nuclear power.

Fossil Fuel World

(Yes, “fueled” is spelled wrong. I’ll edit the graph when I get around to it.)

135 thoughts on ““There Has Never Been An Energy Transition”

    • ” we use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.”

      Nice one, I’d never looked at it like that.

      “Guest laugh by David Middleton” . I once accused you of a guest rant ( which I think was an accurate description ) , since then you now seem to have adapted this idea for nearly every post. I’m glad you were inspired. I appreciate the humour. I enjoy most of you posts.

      • “We use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.” Witty, insightful, and true. I wouldn’t be surprised if modern riprap along Riviera shorelines — not including other uses of stone in construction — used more stone in the last 200 years than thousands of Stone Age years before civilization began.

  1. Solar is cost competive, only if you ignore all the other costs needed to provide solar power. Such as storage and 100% backup needed for when the sun doesn’t shine and your batteries have gone dry.
    It doesn’t include the massive levels of subsidies, nor does it include the mandate to buy solar when it is available which makes all other forms of power more expensive.

    • Back in the late 1970s, we thought when photovoltaic dropped to $0.50 per peak watt (in 1970s money), it would be economic. We passed that a long time ago. LOL

      • It’s economic — for some purposes — e.g. running emergency phone service at remote rural locations. It is just not economic for electric grid operation. There it is diseconomic. And always will be because, even if the cells were free ($0.00) the system would be unaffordable because of the cost of back-up, whether batteries (ha-ha) or gas turbines.

        • Even in the 1970s it was economic compared with the alternative which was a weekly helicopter trip to haul batteries. The system payed for itself in way less than a year.

          • CommieB

            The whole point is that it was cost-effective. That doesn’t mean ‘cheap’. It was ‘worth it’, not ‘cheap’. ‘Cheaper’ is good too.

          • Even in the 1970s it was economic compared with the alternative which was a weekly helicopter trip to haul batteries.
            Sound like a case of solid gold boat anchors. It makes the platinum boat anchors seem like a bargain.

            The fuel you used in a single helicopter trip could have powered a small generator for many weeks for a fraction of the price of the solar panels, with much better reliability than the solar panels.

        • exactly, solar is a great technology for niche applications. Force fitting into the power grid makes no sense unless the goals have more to do with rent seeking or virtue signalling rather than providing a reliable power grid.

      • Well, the good old Commie Republic of California has mandated that ALL new housing built after 2020 must be outfitted with an amount of solar PV so as to provide no less than 50% of the monthly power said household is nominally expected to consume over time.

        And the same goes for new construction on apartment complexes and office buildings.

        MEANWHILE, the largest single consumer of electricity in the Great Purple State of California is … you guessed it … not crypto currency mining, not chip making, and not even outsourced server farm facilities, but indoor POT growing. Marijuana. Kind of shows where our priorities are.

        I’m betting that the business-use license for pot growing indoor nurseries will skyrocket in the next year in anticipation of having to — post 2020 — plant an untenable number of PV panels on said indoor farm roofs. Just saying.


        • They already have so many mandates that housing is absurdly expensive. Just add solar panels to new housing to make it cheaper (not).

        • So pot growers will put solar panels on their roofs to collect sunlight, to transform it into electricity, to power grow lights, which replicate sunlight, to grow plants? Sounds like the long way around. Will they be artificially increasing the CO2 levels as well?

        • Kind of shows where our priorities are.

          It also explains why the priorities are that way.

          I was wondering if California is suffering from the munchies. California snack food consumption information is hard to find. Hmm. Are they hiding something?

          • Oh shut up man, the fuzz are watching… and listening, man and man… just knowing….


            You got any a those cookies left?….


            I gotta take a leak, man….. can I pee on your plants man? I’m kinda freaked about going outside man…. the fuzz have those drone things man…..and I get sunburnt so easily these days… my skin is soooo pale… no wonder they call us white…. did you put acid in those cookies man… oh wow… Jerry Brown for President man… you know it makes sense man….whhsssstt….


    • Speaks volumes that the cost of solar photovoltaic power generation has decreased 80% since 2010 and it is STILL NOT cost competitive.

    • And IMHO the ONLY reason it is now is that renewable energy uses the grid as a massive backup power source, which doubles the cost of electricity for users obtaining power from utilities using renewable power.

    • Mark
      “Solar is cost competitive, only if you ignore” the fact that the market value of the solar energy is often negative since it is often available when it it is not needed and cannot respond to demand.
      It is also generally unavailable during peak demand such as the coldest nights in winter.

      • As a retired electric utilitiy engineer I am well aware of contracts by utilities to wind farm builders/owners that PAY the utilities so that guarantee a market for their power. Many contracts are positive but they are NOT making a profit on electricity, they are making a profit on subsidies.

  2. Oh goody! As the purported cost of wind and solar has come down “80%”, they must be price competitive with conventional sources. Given that, all the mandated purchase rules and other subsidies are no longer required, so they should be revoked.
    It might require both foam earplugs and hearing protector muffs to reduce the sound of the green blob screaming to a hearing-safe level.

    • Wind costs have not declined 80% – the claim was only that solar power has, but that claim is misleading, since at one point solar was so expensive that it could only be used on spacecraft.
      The statement “costs down 80%” is meaningless and cannot be used in any argument about relative costs. It is a mark of sloppy thinking. Renewable generators are not similar to dispatchable generators (including hydro) and their costs require calculations of side effect costs, which are very substantial, since they require spending lots of money to maintain backup generation capacity, even if seldom used. Batteries do not magically transform renewables like wind and solar into dispatchable generators. Basically renewables require duplicative capacity that dispatchable generators never require.

      • Agreed x97 million.

        Non-dispatchable, unreliable, unpredictable, inconsistent power generation like wind and solar (with the small-scale exceptions noted for remote “off grid” low power applications) are WORSE than useless. They have massively NEGATIVE value.

        • Oh, come on, MarkW – they give you “fossil fuel free” power for a few minutes at least. So that we’re, you know, “doing something.” /SARC 😀

          • around the world across countless time periods, give people access to coal and a mineral ores and in no time they’ve made tools and got some industry underway.

            I was thinking, I wonder if we gave the modern super advanced green intelligentsia a pile of photovoltaics and the same piles of ores and dropped them on an island what they would achieve with it all ? I suspect they’ll all have fully charged phones and be arguing whether it was safe to plug in their espresso machined or whether they should wait for an electrician to do it for them.

            but seriously, toss the idea into a group of greens – If PV’s really were such an advanced source of energy and with them supposedly being so cheap and so advanced and easily available.. how is it there’s no users of such tech using the PV’s to build more PV’s ? .. using an energy source to build more energy is a pretty good indicator that it’s effective – PVs never seem to have achieved much in all the years they’ve been with us.

          • I know it is possible to arc weld using a lead acid battery, and know someone who did it: repaired a gas line on a car in the middle of nowhere using carbon rods from dry cell batteries, but…

            Where is there a useful battery-powered arc welder? When industry starts using them routinely, we will have solved the storage problem and PV will be a viable competitor. I would also accepting recycling aluminum as another example.

      • It is not “sloppy thinking” it is deliberate misrepresentation.

        They know that revealing the current cost of solar energy would be a disaster, so they spin the cost as lower than it was.

    • Good science project for HS Jr’s seniors.
      Buy a UPS for a computer system, a LARGE one.
      After a full day charge time how long the computer stays on line with the UPS Auto Shutdown disabled on the PC.
      After a full day charge replace the PC system with the average sized Flat Screen TV in use today ~32 inc or so. Time how long the TV stays on after removing power from the UPS.

      I suggest this “experiment because I have been having a lot of intermittent power outages recently. Some even dim the lights for a few seconds, which is definitely not good for a TV. Wanting to prevent destroying my TV before I had it Paid for I placed it on a 1500 VA UPS. Solved my problems for the intermittent brownouts and momentary blackouts. However, one day when the power went out for an extended period, even though there were fully charged, new batteries in the UPS the UPS shut down the TV on low battery voltage at after about 12 to 15 minutes.
      This also makes me wonder what is going to be the cost to Renewable power users in replacement electronic equipment. Even my Non-Dimmable LED lights are self destructing from these random electrical problems, @$15 to $20 a POP. Have had to replace four in the two weeks we have had these random outages. Ready to put the incandescents back in.

      • I had a small UPS that I used to power my high speed internet modem, Wi-Fi router, and VoIP router. Until the UPS’s batteries died, I never had my internet go down. Once during a power outage, I was the only Wi-Fi detectable; our laptop’s (with their batteries) were able to use the internet just fine. This worked great for me because those items are low current users.

  3. As mildly pointed out we have had several energy transitions. We started out using mostly wood, and then when wood got scarce (and there were tax incentives as well) in England coal was used. Coal tars and gases were used for locomotion and lighting among other things. Small engines were made to power things like sewing machines – these engines eventually went into cars – and we transitioned to oil/electricity – with the electricity being generated by coal, but with Natural Gas, hydropower and some nuclear power .

    Seems like there have been several transitions. Of course almost every old technology is still used in some form somewhere – there are places that still rely on wood as England did 500 years ago.

    • “…there are places that still rely on wood as England did 500 years ago.”

      Such as the Drax Power Station which burns wood pellets imported from the US?

    • A transition would be switching out of one energy source to another. This hasn’t happened.

      Energy production from biomass has roughly tripled since 1800. It wasn’t replaced by fossil fuels.

      • These so called “renewable energy sources” are not in any way a “transition” when it requires fossil fuels in one part of the world to provide this metal, more fossil fuels in that part of the world to mine this mineral to make this part and another part of the world uses fossil fuels to refine this raw material into this shape to make this part…etc… That they are even called “renewables” is a misnomer. That they even sell them as “Clean Energy” is a misnomer. When to make them requires producing more Carbon Dioxide in other parts of the world, defeats the narrative of them being “renewable clean energy” in another part of the world, based upon the misconception that CO2 is a pollutant they are trying to reduce. By adding CO2 to the environment today, does not reduce CO2 tomorrow.


      • I maintain that this has happened at least twice in history. It is never 100% – how much electricity and how many homes are being heated by wood today in the USA or Western Europe? Not many at all. How many cars/machines/transportation devices are run on coal today? Unless electric – just about none.

        • XY:

          Your comment shows your experience is limited to urban neighborhoods. (To be fair, until we moved to a rural area after retirement, I would have agreed.)

          In our rural Texas county, easily half of the homes are heated by wood burning. Almost all have forested areas from which they harvest wood during the summer (and winter if they run out due to colder-than-normal weather [NOT climate]) Homes built in the last 5 – 10 years tend to heated by electrical resistance or propane burning. A few are reported to have their own natural gas wells, but I cannot confirm that. There is NO large-scale natural gas distribution due to low population density and large distances between houses, barns and hatching facilities (large chicken raising facilities are common).

          In Europe, the situation is not much different, unless their Eco-Freaks have forced all those in homes I personally visited (in the 70’s & 80’s, it is to be admitted) who heated with wood and coal stoves to convert to other means.

          It also should be noted that fireplaces and stoves for heating, both gas and wood-burning, are a common feature in many, if not most, upscale urban dwellings as well as some low-income housing.

          Bottom line: There ARE many homes in the US, Eastern AND Western Europe who still use wood for heating.

          • I’m in rural France, almost every single home has a wood burning stove, even new builds. The woodpiles harvested and stacked at the side of forestry areas are vast, obviously the best stuff is kept for timber, but the majority is firewood. The also stack the rubbish wood to be chipped, for making OSB/chipboard panels and wood pellets.

    • Marque2

      There are about 400m people dependent on coal for heating and another smaller group dependent on wood (for heating). About 3bn people depend on solid fuels for cooking.

      What is to me the most surprising is how many of those three groups live in Europe, defined as the subcontinent, not the EU.

      These people often have choices – electricity being the most appreciated – but choose to continue as they do for a variety of reasons. They are essentially ignored as a group with ‘needs’. Those needs are assumed to be waved away with the wand of renewables. After all, who can most easily adopt an expensive and inconsistent energy source, right? Right?

      Now who’s the rube?

  4. There was a deafening silence at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when Bishop Curry said that the world is powered by … combustion.

    Prince Charles is still in rehab.

  5. It’s becuz Big Fossil won’t allow us to transition. Hahahahahahaha!
    It’s becuz of Big Fossil-funded denayers. Hahahahahahha!
    It’s becuz of Conservatives, who hate the planet. Hahahahahaha!
    It’s becuz The Scientists can’t communicate Climate in a way that The People can understand. Hahahaha!
    Etc. /sarcnado.

  6. Wind and solar costs have come down 80% since 2010? That’s like boasting that Chicago’s murder rate is less than yesterday.

      • So true…tax cuts are really lesser increases than the earlier over bloated opening gambit. The old bait and switch.

  7. Next time someone claims photovoltaic power is ready to replace fossil fuel power, ask them why hospitals in Arizona haven’t replaced their emergency generators with solar panels and some batteries. Lots of roof area for cheap panels, lots of free sun, lots of lead time to get their batteries charged up…


    • That brings up an important question. Can anybody do a list of energy requirements whereby even if we went 100% nuclear for electricity, with 100% electric vehicles; what are the industries/products that will never be powered by anything except fossil fuels. Emergency generators have to be at the top of that list. Another one would be blast furnaces that are producing a product that needs high enough temperatures whereby electric arc furnaces just wont do the job. There must be dozens of other examples like this. After accumulating the list, then we have to assign total energy usage requirements per year for each and then total that up to get a minimum % of fossil fuel usage whereby it is impossible to go any lower. In other words NOT only 100% green is impossible but probably we will find that 80% green is impossible.

      • Aircraft. And launch vehicles.

        Yes there have been experimental electric aircraft. And they worked. Scaling is a real bitch, though. Aircraft take-off weight fraction is a significant factor, and therefore energy density of the propelling agent is an important factor. Propellant / oxidizer energy density is even more critical for launch vehicles.

        • I recall from Evan Boberg’s “Common Sense Not Required: Idiots Designing Cars & Hybrid Vehicles” his discussion of how much of the gas mileage “advantage” of hybrid cars was not from the “hybrid” power train, but rather from the other “tricks” they use, like using aluminum instead of steel for hoods, trunklids and roof panels, using skinny, low rolling resistance tires (that compromise handling and braking), and so on. And how highway mileage was often worse (because of the need to haul around the dead weight of the batteries) vs. a similar size/weight ICE car.

          Beyond trains that can draw electric power from a third rail or catenary setup, there really isn’t any practical use for “electric” powered transport.

          • AGW is not Science

            And if anyone believes thye motor industry isn’t fighting back against EV’s, they are sadly mistaken.

            The new generation of small displacement turbocharged cars is ample evidence. Three cylinder, 1 Litre petrol cars cars producing 130 BHP. Enough to power a large five seater hatchback and have it cruising at 80 MPH+. The engines are physically tiny and light being largely aluminium.

            Their forays into EV’s is as much a political ploy as a hedging of bets. Manufacturers have been experimenting with innumerable power sources for generations. They will drop EV’s at the first opportunity.

          • “HotScot September 20, 2018 at 10:43 am

            And if anyone believes thye motor industry isn’t fighting back against EV’s, they are sadly mistaken.”

            I am not so sure about that. VW just announced the end of the line for the iconic Beetle. VW will focus on other “family” vehicles and EV’s.

  8. Hydro may not be as sustainable or cheap as we think. Many hydro projects will require capital investment and some may become less useful because the lake behind the dam silts up so it becomes “run of the river” rather than “store for peak demand.” Hundreds of dam are getting old and need refurbishing.

    The reversal of population and economic growth will both be needed to keep the earth habitable. Technology alone won’t do it. Basic ecology: Cut fertility rates to replacement or mortality rates will increase. As close as we come to a universal law in biology. Tipping points are already being passed.

    • No they arent
      THe UN and World Bank provide statistics that show/ practically prove that the world population will level off at around 11 billion (exact projection 11.2 billion). The world has never run out of resources except wood from trees( Haiti being prime example, but that was because of stupidity) and fish from certain fishing areas. However if resources are managed properly, that isnt a problem. Basic commodities like coal,gas and oil are plentiful and we are always finding more. Economic growth cannot be stopped unless you believe in Communism. Hydro is only 1 part of the electricity power mix. It should stand or fall on the economics. Electricity power generation for now is only 20% of total energy consumption anyway. If that % will go up because of push to electric vehicles, then nuclear is the way to go. France is leading the world in this regard.

      • But aren’t France’s nuclear power stations reaching their end of life in the next decade or so, with no replacements being planned (except, of course, all those lovely wind turbines dotting the countryside)?

        • Macron and Hollande before him are deep into no fracking reduced nuclear (50% down from 80+%). The slack to be taken up by so-called renewables. What the rest of Europe does for electricity when a stationary high parks itself over northern Europe should be interesting.

          There is increasing resistance to the trashing of the French country side with windfarms. In Limousin where I am a lot of farms have newly built barns with solar PV rooves and grow sunflowers and maize, not so many Limousin cattle these days.

      • Alan,
        Can we add whale oil, bison skin leather, isinglass, and cedar from Lebanon to things we have run out of? How about things like ivory, ebony, fine hardwood gun-stocks and other things that became so rare that the cost became prohibitive for the original uses and have been replaced by plastics?

        • Clyde Spencer

          I suspect all those things you mention were already expensive, it was plastics that became the cheaper alternative.

          My folks left me numerous common Chinese ornaments (Ivory) and bits of furniture which cost them an arm and a leg in 50’s Hong Kong. No sign of them rotting like modern plastics though.

      • Why not solar and wind? (Although nuclear probably is a reasonable part of the mix.) As for UN population forecasts, if you look up the 2002 revision you find the 2050 projection is 8.9 billion. By the 2015 revision that has risen to almost 9.8 billion. And they give five numbers ranging from about 8 to 26 billion for 2100 depending on future fertility rates. It is by no means certain population growth will stop at 11.2 billion. It requires a lot of high fertility cultures to change their behaviors. Not happening fast enough right now. The world is evolving towards poor and high fertility by “cultural selection” (which has replaced “natural selection” since we figured out how to keep kids from dying).

        • Recently observed personally two of the reasons wind will never be a reliable large-grid energy source on its own.

          Driving across north Texas (AKA ‘the Panhandle’), we passed thru several very large arrays of some of the larger wind-driven turbines. Going northwest, at least half of the turbines were not turning due to excessive winds (at least, that was my evaluation based on the gusts that were buffeting our car). Coming back, going southeast, NONE of the turbines were turning on a beautiful, clear day, with gentle zephyrs blowing across the plains.

          Both of the conditions described are common in north Texas, as well as across all of the Great Plains, which have been noted as being among the most ideal locations and geography for wind-based electrical generation.

          Draw your own conclusion.

      • I’d suggest a cut in mortality rate will decrease fertility rate….thus why countries with highest lifespan have lowest birthrates.

    • There is no evidence that the number of humans on the planet is causing a problem.
      Nor is there any evidence that the earth can’t handle many times more population than we have now.
      Economic growth almost always results in the population having less ecological impact, not more.

      PS: Dredging the lakes behind dams is cheap.

    • Since the most valuable resource to human beings is the human brain, the more people we have the better, actually. More innovation, discoveries, new ideas, etc. That said, human populations have NEVER followed simple ever-increasing trends, so why would you expect them to now?

    • Max Kummerow

      Western populations are suffering a crisis of declining birth rates because of increased prosperity. Hence the simplistic call from the left to encourage immigration.

      The developing world is suffering a crisis of increasing population because the only solution for old age provision is to have large families to care for the elderly as there isn’t enough wealth (because of the lack of cheap fossil fuel derived energy) to allow governments the luxury of social care.

      The solution is to abandon the insane drive for renewables and go full steam ahead to help developing countries enter the twenty first Century by helping them develop fossil fuel powered, grid connected electricity, generate wealth and provide social care for the elderly. No need for big families then, is there?

      I cringe every time I hear the “over populated” expression because the solution is simple, affordable and humane. And as no one has ever convincingly, by empirical means, demonstrated that atmospheric CO2 increases the temperature of the planet, I believe leading alarmists are criminally culpable of the deaths of 120,000,000 people by 2050 (32 years away) from smoke inhalation, by being forced to burn animal faeces and foraged timber for cooking and heating (WHO estimates) when the solution to both that and the population issue is at hand.

  9. I’ve read that the cost decline applies only to the solar panel, when is about 25% of the cost of an installation,not to the inverter, metal rack, wiring, installation cost, etc.

    • It already is with my generous solar FIT scheme sponging off large thermal generators and my neighbours at present (hey I don’t make the rules just play by them). At present my solar inverter samples the largely thermal powered grid and matches the frequency in order to contribute but I’m just worried about the chicken and egg situation long term with 100% unreliables. If the grid goes into cascading meltdown like it did in SA which solar inverter in my street or beyond gets the guernsey to begin so that the rest can sample the frequency and fire up accordingly?

    • Greg: “Solar will be economically viable in 10 years, and always will be.”

      Just after Fusion becomes economical, eh?

  10. “the total use continues to grow” = of energy:

    * people who have never had the luxury of electricity have been switched on ?? millions of them now have energy to burn.
    * we have mobile phones – we are online – my computer is on 24/7 almost albeit I threw away the TVset.
    * our governments have gone mad with desire for security technology – it all adds up.
    * business & corporate are also utilizing all the mod cons to extravagant lengths – hang the cost.
    Ever thus – the more money one earns the more way one can find to spend it – energy – we can’t get enough of it.
    * private transport is now electric – I have a power wheelchair & a mobility scooter – but look at the marvellos toys for the average commuter.

  11. Very good stuff. These alone are worth hanging on a wall:

    – One of my favorite sayings is, “We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones.” Technically we never left the Stone Age because we use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.

    – And we never left the “Wood Age.” There was no energy transition from biomass (wood) to fossil fuels. Coal piled on top of biomass, oil piled on top of coal and natural gas piled on top of oil…

    Reminds me of the weird debate about what happened to the use of whale oil. Did we run out of whales, i.e. were they getting so scarce, the price of oil was too high for consumers, and it was just too hard to get a whale? Did the shortage of whale oil, i.e. price, drive innovation to come up with kerosene from petroleum, as opposed to other more or less inferior alternatives? And then, weirdly, did this new kind of kerosene beat out its competitors at least partly because of a high tax on alcohol, i.e. a kind of subsidy for kerosene? See Andy May: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/04/24/the-pbs-newshour-whale-oil-myth/

    At any rate, we did transition from whale oil for indoor lighting to … other things. Oh yes, electricity.

    • There have been many transtions within our resource consumption patterns… We use rocks (stone) for different purposes today, than in he Stone Age. We transitioned from horses to motor vehicles. We transtioned from whale oil to kerosene to electricity for lighting… If the Warmunists have their way, we’ll transtion from electricty to darkness.

      But there haven’t been any true transitions in our primary energy consumption. Our consumption of biomass didn’t end or even secularly decline when we began to adopt fossil fuels.

  12. Interesting article:

    Wolf Street –
    1. Why Have US Electricity Sales Surged in 2018 After Stagnation For Years.
    2. Automakers Take Note: Americans Are Changing How They Get to Work by Wolf Richter.

    • Electric sales for the same reason as before. The economy is surging.
      Sales of electric cars are still too small to show up in the numbers, much less be a “driving” force.

  13. Anytime solar energy is praised by those who have been hypnotized by its allure, I am obligated to point out that of all available technologies for generating utility power, Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells, by their very design and construction, are substantially vulnerable to instant and total destruction by any nuclear EMP. For this reason alone it is just imprudent to rely on PV solar for more than just a few percent of utility power.

    Yes, other technologies also have vulnerability to EMP. But each is vulnerable in a different way. Most important, the probability that a given device will be damaged or destroyed is lower than that of PV solar cells. It is my personal opinion that in excess of 90% of PV solar cells that have line-of-sight visibility to an EMP event will be destroyed. In fact, I don’t see how it is possible that 100% of them are not destroyed. They just have a built-in EMP antenna (in the form of the current collector grid), and they have almost no resilience to a Vr spike of even a few hundred volts. PV cells are just giant diodes with a junction that has the area of the entire cell. Any defect in that junction means a short.

    • It doesn’t take an EMP to knock solar arrays out of commission. A simple gale will suffice. Same for wind turbines.
      Storms are common. EMP’s not so much.

      • When Irma went through Orlando, I was curious to see how the Disney solar array would hold up. Reports showed Orlando did have hurricane level winds. Disney’s solar array came through unscathed.

        It is located in a clearing in a forest, so I can’t tell you how strong the wind was at the array, but I am not as concerned about wind for solar as I was before.

    • That sounds fun. I am going to through a solar panel into our EMP tester. My guess is that physically larger the panel is, the more vulnerable it will be. I highly doubt a solar powered calculator is going to be effected.

  14. As for “transitions”, back when energy was substantially a free market, people were free to substitute any source of energy they pleased. So the driving factor was cost and to a lesser extent, the opportunity cost of use and suitability.

    Throughout human history, we have consumed hydrocarbons for light and heat. But we don’t consume whales or coal seams or crude oil, we consume fuel products that are made from these sources. Even today, we consume very carefully made liquid fuel products in the form of gasolines or jet fuel which are made to exacting specifications. The average consumer just cannot purchase crude oil. If they did, they would not be able to use it in any consumer device. None are sold that directly burn it.

    But each of these fuels is made by taking a feedstock of hydrocarbons, breaking them down and then assembling the desired target fuel product. What counts is not the cost of the raw source of hydrocarbons but the market value of the resulting fuel product. When the difference between the cost of the feedstock and the value of the product gets too little, other feedstocks are substituted. We can make diesel fuel from coal, from crude oil, sewage sludge or even from scraps from processing Butterball turkeys.

    If there is any “transition” it is always related to what fuel products the market values and what feedstocks are available.

    Now, some advances in the field of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) will be a true transition, but it will take place over a period of years, as long as government does not intrude, like it did with the shameful and distruptive forced adoption of CFL lighting.

    See for example: https://brilliantlightpower.com/news/

    Also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changing_World_Technologies

  15. The only “transition” will occur when/if we run out of fossil fuels and don’t heed the importance of nuclear. Fossil fuels are just too economical, reliable, and portable. In any case, none of us will be around to witness it.

  16. It’s the Greenies fault that coal and oil have as big a share of the energy pie as they do. We’d have converted much of that to nuclear if they hadn’t been standing in the way.

    You don’t suppose they ever estimate their own contribution to the end of humanity, do you? (Maybe someone here will do that for them.)

  17. Please don’t neglect the issue of how much of the world’s money and wealth in the form of misdirected human effort this so-called transition to the new energies of solar and wind has squandered for the minuscule and unreliable power so far produced.

    The words “criminal waste” hardly seem adequate .

  18. The thing is, Greens and Alarmists really believe that the world is headed for Armageddon with CAGW unless we cut out CO2 and outlaw FF power generation – and if they got their way, the resulting destruction of our 1st-World society as we lost 80% of our energy supply and much of our agriculture would be a darn sight worse than Armageddon.
    Green virtue has its price – and we shall pay it.

  19. Thing is, the authors are entirely right — at least with regard to “building upon the upward trend of fossil fuel emissions”. If the fossil fuels continue to be used not just to the same degree, but to a linearly increasing degree in the future, it hardly matters whether the World gleefully invests in ever-more renewable energy.

    Now — as per the sentiments of those here who question the link between rising CO₂ and the purported spectacular rise in global temperatures — to me at least it seems to depend on whether we’re looking at spectacular(ly) bad or speciously innocuous relationships.

    I personally would love to see the world somehow incorporating a whole lot more nuclear, geothermal and both PV and wind energy into national grids. Sure, sure, to effectively do so requires some amount of rapid-load-tracking generation such as hydro and natural gas. It also might benefit when the levels of PV especially, but also wind … rise to a significant proportion of domestic grid use, to have municipal or regional power catch-and-release storage facilities. At least that’d result in less energy just not being wasted.

    But I don’t think we need to be addressing this as a transnational crisis.
    We’ve become hugely dependent on fossilized carbon deposits.
    Be they solid, liquid or gas.

    And since — realistically — it took many millions of years to deposit these resources, and we’re burning them off in excess of 1% a year, there definitely is an “end” a’coming. Might be nice to be working on that with increased vigor, today. By the time we need “revolutionary” generation and storage, distribution and consumption technologies, at least we’ll have worked all the losers out of the mix.

    Just saying,

  20. “These historical changes in the energy system, however, have been a matter of addition, not transition.”
    Yeah, because they still need the fossils for back-up generation to prop up unreliable renewables.

    Oh, and a “transition” implies moving ahead, but use of wind and solar are actually old energy sources that we long ago transitioned from to something better like fossils.

  21. The bottom line: To avoid the worst impacts of climate change

    Do I detect a movement in the farce (sic) whereby we are no longer attempting to create a Camelot-type climate but only stopping the ‘worst’ (whatever that means) climate changes?

    From Camelot (the song):

    It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear.
    The climate must be perfect all the year.

  22. “There Has Never Been An Energy Transition”

    Maybe not completely, but historically the world was run on slavery, for a very, very long time. From very ancient times, right up to 1865 here in parts of the USA, a good portion of the GDP was produced by slavery. The economic might of Greece and Rome was rooted in slavery. A good deal of Africa’s wealth was rooted in slavery, as were the European slave traders that powered an entire industry just getting and selling slaves to market let alone the vast industries that were mainly generated by slave power. Spain employed vast numbers of slaves in working the gold and silver mines from Mexico to South America, in addition to just straight up plunder and theft of existing accumulated wealth. Same for agriculture, all around the world. Some argue that many parts of the world are still run on wage slavery, such as the sweatshops of the 3rd world to produce the products that are sold in the first world, the workers barely making enough to purchase low grade food and housing. And still don’t have any measure of true freedom.

    Of course, it was fossil fuels that was responsible for ending a lot of slavery, when it became cheaper to use a steam engine to power industry than it did a great number of slaves. This is what Western Liberalism has already forgot, is that it was fossil fuels that enabled empires to abandon slavery, because there was an entire suite of new available energy sources, which was a completely newly discovered source of energy in the form of fossil fuels. So I would argue, at least partially, that the transition out of slavery which was by definition a form of energy, happened. But it is something so repugnant to us now, that this history of global slavery, practised by almost everyone, everywhere at one time or another for eons has mostly been forgotten.

  23. Just a small note to: “It’s a fossil fueled world.”

    Really? Are all those hydrocarbons on Titan fossil? Did the dino’s fly there and die en masse?
    What about those methane dunes on Pluto?
    My take is: it’s a hydrocarbons fueled world. Could be that some of those on earth are fossil, but most not….

    • Firstly, coal is clearly sourced from organic matter.

      Secondly, methane on Titan is 100% irrelevant to hydrocarbon formation on Earth. Abiotic/abiognic/inorganically-sourced methane is common throughout our Solar System and beyond, as are traces of other simple hydrocarbons.

      Thirdly, there is no evidence at all of any significant volumes of complex hydrocarbons on Earth that were not sourced from organic material. Petroleum is a mixture of complex hydrocarbons (paraffins, naphthenes, aromatics and asphaltics) and the vast majority of natural gas production comes from the same total petroleum systems as crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons. It’s possible that oil forms in the mantle all the time. The chemical equations can be balanced; so it’s not impossible. There’s just no evidence for it.

      Biogenic vs abiogenic is really a poor way to characterize the issue. It implies that the formation of crude oil is either a biological or non-biological process. The process is thermogenic. The original source material is considered to be of organic origin because all of the evidence supports this.


      Here’s a very simple example:

      In Pescadero Basin, however, hydrothermal-vent fluids pass through thick layers of seafloor mud. As the hot hydrothermal fluid flows through this mud, it “cooks” organic material, forming methane (natural gas) and oil-like hydrocarbons. The Pescadero Basin vents contain very little sulfide, and the superheated fluids produce giant, light-colored, carbonate chimneys streaked with dark, oily hydrocarbons.

      The “oil-like hydrocarbons” were associated with hydrothermal-vent fluids which “pass through thick layers of seafloor mud”  in the Pescadero Basin.

      The Pescadero Basin is only the second place in the world where carbonate chimneys (instead of ones made primarily of sulfides) have been found in the deep sea. The other known location is the “Lost City” vent field in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, at a spot on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

      The geologists also noticed that their rock samples smelled like diesel. They hypothesize that hot hydrothermal fluids migrating upward through the thick sediments of the Pescadero Basin “cook” organic matter in the sediment, converting it into petroleum-like hydrocarbons—a process that has been observed at several other vents in the Pacific. Hydrocarbons may provide nutrition for the unusual microbes that thrive at these vents.



      Just 75 km to the south, the seafloor of the Alarcón Rise is covered with layers of relatively fresh lava flows and very little sediment.  The Alarcón Rise hydrothermal vents are run of the mill black smokers, with no evidence of “hydrothermal oil.”

      Petroleum-like substances have been associated with hydrothermal vents in basins with thick organic-rich sediments. However nearby hydrothermal vents with little to no sediment cover (rises) do not exhibit evidence of “hydrothermal oil.”

      If petroleum was being formed in the mantle, the petroleum-like substances wouldn’t be limited to hydrothermal vents in basins with thick organic-rich sediments.

      Furthermore, the “hydrothermal oil” of the Guaymas Basin is extremely young and relatively rich in 14C…

      Nature 342, 65 – 69 (02 November 1989); doi:10.1038/342065a0

      Hydrothermal oil of Guaymas Basin and implications for petroleum formation mechanisms


      *Refineria de Petroleo Concon, Casilla 242, Concon, Chile

      †Petroleum Research Group, College of Oceanography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

      PETROLEUM-LIKE hydrocarbons have been detected in thermally altered Recent sediments of Guaymas Basin1–5 and petroleum-like hydrocarbon impregnations were found in hydrothermal mounds on the sea floor and associated with hydrothermal vent emissions5–9. Here we report the evaluation of such a hydrothermal oil, which we find to be similar to conventionally exploited crude oils. Its young geological age (< 5,000 yr, 14C) 10 indicates that a significant fraction of the organic carbon in the oil has completed the transformation from biomass to migrating oil in less than 5,000 years, thus limiting the oil generation, explusion and migration processes to a geologically short timescale. We estimate the generation potential of such hydrothermal oil and discuss its implications to our understanding of the petroleum generation, expulsion and migration mechanisms. https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v342/n6245/abs/342065a0.html

      The Lost City hydrothermal vent on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Pescadero Basin are the only two known places where carbonate (rather than sulfide) chimneys have been found.  While there are similarities between the Pescadero Basin and Lost City, there’s a big difference…

      Deep-ocean vents are a source of oil and gas

      Hydrocarbons bubble up from the mid-Atlantic’s Lost City.

      Rachel Courtland

      Undersea thermal vents can yield unexpected bounty: natural gas and the building blocks of oil products. In a new analysis of Lost City, a hydrothermal field in the mid-Atlantic, researchers have found that these organic molecules are being created through inorganic processes, rather than the more typical decomposition of once-living material.

      Most of the planet’s oil and natural gas deposits were created when decomposing biological matter is ‘cooked’ in high temperatures underground. But non-biological hydrocarbons have also been found deep inside the Earth, where chemical processes create the molecules from inorganic sources such as rock.


      Among other measurements, the team analysed the amount of carbon-13 in methane, which contains one carbon atom, and in hydrocarbons containing two, three, and four carbon atoms. As the number of carbon atoms rose, the concentration of carbon-13 fell — the opposite trend to that seen in biologically derived hydrocarbons.

      Instead, the pattern of isotopes suggest that a chemical process called the Fischer-Tropsch process is at work in Lost City, creating bigger and bigger hydrocarbons in the hydrogen-rich environment. Although the concentrations were too low to detect without a filter, small amounts of larger hydrocarbons such as kerosene and octane may also be produced.

      The team also found that the methane in Lost City contained no carbon-14, suggesting the carbon source for the hydrocarbons comes from within the mantle, far away from organisms that might have had contact with the global carbon cycle at the surface.



      Setting aside the fact that “the building blocks of oil products” are not the same thing as oil (in much the same manner that a 2×4 is not the same thing as a house)… The carbon in the Lost City hydrocarbons is either so old that carbon-14 is undetectable or it has never “had contact with the global carbon cycle at the surface.”  So, the methane and the traces of hydrocarbons at Lost City were almost certainly sourced from inorganic substances.  While the traces of “hydrothermal oil” in the Pescadero and Guaymas Basins were almost certainly sourced from organic substances.

      Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how hydrocarbons form. They have to be produced from economically viable accumulations… which only occur in or adjacent to sedimentary basins.

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